Geraldine could change districts

RHONDA MARKBY
Last updated 05:00 24/08/2012
Opinion poll

Should the Geraldine ward break away from the Timaru District?

No, it would be financially sounder to stay with Timaru.

Yes - great idea. Where can I sign the petition?

I have no idea.

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TIMARU DISTRICT: Wards

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A petition signed by just over 400 voters in the Geraldine ward is all it would take to start a move for the ward to join another district.

Unhappy with the Timaru District Council's move towards electing 10 councillors at-large at next year's election, Geraldine community board members have begun discussing their options. At this week's community board meeting, two board members were looking to the Timaru District Council for financial assistance to challenge the voting system change if it went ahead, as well as considering aligning the Geraldine ward with either the Ashburton or Mackenzie districts instead of Timaru.

It only takes a petition signed by 10 per cent of the concerned area's electors to initiate a proposal. There were 4061 electors on the ward roll this week.

It was quite unusual for a community board to take such action, a Local Government New Zealand spokesman confirmed yesterday. The Timaru District Council does not have to agree to the action.

A successful petition triggers the Local Government Commission which then investigates and decides whether or not there is a case. When the draft reorganisation scheme is ready it is publicly notified and submissions invited. The proposer can withdraw the proposal once those submissions are received.

While community board member Kerry Stevens wants the district council to provide $20,000 to finance a legal challenge to the at-large scheme if it goes ahead, there is no separate allocation for Geraldine for that in the district council's budget, corporate services manager Tina Rogers confirmed.

There was cash in the current year's budget for legal fees as well as reserve funds which could be used if the district council agreed.

The process is robust and ends up with the people of the area getting the result they usually wish to have, Ashburton Mayor Angus McKay said yesterday. He had been involved in the process several times and was confident the system delivered what the vast majority of residents in the affected area sought.

The Mackenzie District was not in the habit of "pinching other districts' ratepayers" Mayor Claire Barlow said, adding she was thankful it would be decided by the Local Government Commission.

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- The Timaru Herald

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